News / Middle East

Tensions Escalate Between US, Israel Over Iran Nuclear Talks

Tensions Escalate Between US, Israel Over Iran Nuclear Talksi
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November 22, 2013
The U.S. alliance with Israel is being strained by deep disagreements over a possible deal with Iran regarding that country’s controversial nuclear program. VOA correspondent Meredith Buel reports.
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Meredith Buel
The U.S. alliance with Israel is being strained by deep disagreements over a possible deal with Iran regarding that country’s controversial nuclear program. 

It was just eight months ago that President Barack Obama visited Israel.  It was the first foreign trip of his second term - designed to improve relations with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, which have been stressed over the Palestinian conflict.

But now the two men are at serious odds again - this time over nuclear negotiations with Iran.

Benjamin Netanyahu:

"It's clear that this agreement is good only for Iran, and that it's really bad for the rest of the world.  Iran's dream deal is the world's nightmare," he said.

Israel is concerned Iran is too close to building a bomb - and wants its nuclear capabilities rolled back. Iran says its program is peaceful, and the U.S. is pressing international diplomacy to resolve the dispute.

Dennis Ross, a former senior advisor on Iran to President Obama, sees merits in Israel's position.

“Even if you are slowing the clock or freezing it, you are freezing it at a level that basically is unacceptable.  Because that level would allow the Iranians to have a break out capability and you are not reversing the program," said Ross.

The U.S. stance has also angered another key ally in the region: Saudi Arabia.  In what analysts see as an unprecedented development, Israel and many Sunni Arab nations are aligned in their concerns about Iran.

Adam Ereli, a Middle East expert and former U.S. Ambassador to Bahrain, says this puts the U.S. in a delicate position.

“Let’s not forget our close and steadfast and important allies in the region who not only rely on us, but who we rely on for our national security," said Ereli.

Israel has threatened to bomb Iran if it gets too close to making a nuclear weapon, despite U.S. efforts to tone down the harsh rhetoric.  Analysts don’t believe Israel will attack during negotiations between world powers and Iran.

But analyst Robert Satloff says Israel's impatience is growing.

“I think the likelihood of Israeli military action against Iran has gone way up," said Satloff.

Satloff says the current Israeli government feels it has been left out in the cold.

That could have a negative impact on the Middle East peace process, which the U.S. is spearheading.

“And that is because the crisis of confidence between the United States and Israel will have an impact on this diplomacy," said Satloff.

Looking away from the U.S., Netanyahu has met with the Presidents of France and Russia to appeal for tough terms on a nuclear accord with Iran.

Despite the deep disagreements with Netanyahu., Secretary of State John Kerry says the Obama administration will not let down its key ally.

“We believe deeply in our commitment to Israel, deeply, " said Kerry.

Kerry says the United States will not accept any deal that allows Iran to buy time to increase its nuclear capability and further threaten Israel.

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